Qualcomm talks up future top-tier smartphone chip

By Noel Randewich – SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) Qualcomm gave details on Monday about a future high-end smartphone chip, including faster download speeds as well as 64-bit technology, which is quickly becoming standard.

Due to appear in smartphones in 2015, the Snapdragon 810 is Qualcomm’s latest bid to use its edge in wireless technology to maintain its marketshare lead in semiconductors for mobile devices.

The 810 chip includes new, faster WiFi features as well as a 4G modem that Qualcomm says downloads data at twice the speed of chips made with its previous technology.

The chip also allows for video recording and playback at “4K” ultra-high resolution.

Following Apple’s launch last year of its first iPhone made with a 64-bit processor, Qualcomm and other chipmakers have been rushing to roll out their own 64-bit technology, which reduces the gap between low-power mobile processors and punchier chips used in laptops, desktop PCs and servers.

Qualcomm is announcing its newest chip before the preceding chip in its high-end lineup, the 805, has even begun to appear in smartphones. The 805 is due to appear in smartphones around mid-2014.

Current smartphones, including Apple’s, do not have enough memory to give 64-bit processors an advantage over more widely used 32-bit chips, but future phones will be made with enough memory to give the 64-bit processors a performance boost.

Before 64-bit features can be taken advantage of in phones, the software and operating systems they rely on will also have to be overhauled, a major undertaking for the industry.

Qualcomm in December announced its first 64-bit chip, part of its low-end lineup and aimed for use this year in inexpensive smartphones in the fast-growing Chinese market.

“We’re basically saying it’s difficult to call exactly when 64-bit operating systems and applications will become mainstream, but by integrating them now we’re future-proofing all of our platforms going forward for the benefit of our (customers),” Executive Vice President Murthy Renduchintala told Reuters.

Qualcomm dominates the market for advanced 4G wireless technology and its Snapdragon chips are widely used in smartphones made by Samsung Electronics, Motorola, HTC and other manufacturers.

But the San Diego, California chipmaker faces a smartphone market that is beginning to grow less quickly.

Smartphone demand is shifting from the United States and other developed countries, where top-tier phones like the iPhone have become ubiquitous, to China, where consumers tend to buy less expensive devices with lower-end displays and other features.

After increasing 39 percent last year, smartphone shipments are expected to expand by 19 percent in 2014, and growth is expected to continue to slow, falling to just 6 percent in 2018, according to market research firm IDC.

Chief Executive Officer Steve Mollenkopf has told investors who are worried about a less vigorous smartphone market that Qualcomm’s future chip innovations will drive fresh demand for smartphones.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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